Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Poe, Browning, Hamby, & Hoagland

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” have a common theme of death due to disloyal actions. Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English” and Tony Hoagland’s “America” the speakers voice their contrasting opinions about American society. All four authors focus on a single subject, and how it affects a person’s surroundings.
In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Montresor tells the story of the night he killed Fortunato. Fortunato hurt him in some way, but Montresor never specifies. Montresor lies to Fortunato saying he has a rare sherry wine. After walking through the wine cellars they come upon a niche and Montresor tells him Amontillado is there. Fortunato enters and Montresor chains him to the wall and then makes a fourth wall, entombing Fortunato alive and leave him to his death. In “My Last Duchess,” the Duke talks about his deceased wife. He discusses their relationship, the duchess focused more on other men instead of the Duke and he was a domineering husband who viewed his wife as an object. Throughout the poem the Duke never fully admits to killing his wife but states “I gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together.” (45-46) which shows he had a role in her death. In both writings, revenge is reason for the deaths; however the specific reasons are not mentioned. The Duke and Montresor have no regrets, but actually feel they did the right thing.
In “Ode to American English” the speaker talks about the positives of America. The speaker is American but is in France, reminiscing about everything America has to offer, the beauty, culture, and improper speech. Hoagland’s “America,” has a contrasting opinion of America, criticizing American culture. Everything is revolved around money and other luxuries, however at the end of the poem he finds himself partaking in this lifestyle.
All four literary works focus on the impacts people have on a society, whether they are positive or negative. Montresor and the Duke use revenge as an acceptable reason to kill. While the speakers in Hamby’s and Hoagland’s poems define the good and bad qualities of America.

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